Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom – Day 37 of 61

My heart hammered. I was going to lose two months — lose it all, never happened. My assassination, the new Hall of Presidents and my shameful attempt thereon, the fights with Lil, Lil and Dan, the meeting. My plans for the rehab! All of it, good and bad, every moment flensed away.

I couldn’t do it. I had a rehab to finish, and I was the only one who understood how it had to be done. Without my relentless prodding, the ad-hocs would surely revert to their old, safe ways. They might even leave it half-done, halt the process for an interminable review, present a soft belly for Debra to savage.

I wouldn’t be restoring from backup.

I had two more seizures before the interface finally gave up and shut itself down. I remember the first, a confusion of vision-occluding strobes and uncontrollable thrashing and the taste of copper, but the second happened without waking me from deep unconsciousness.

When I came to again in the infirmary, Dan was still there. He had a day’s growth of beard and new worrylines at the corners of his newly rejuvenated eyes. The doctor came in, shaking his head.

“Well, now, it seems like the worst is over. I’ve drawn up the consent forms for the refresh and the new clone will be ready in an hour or two. In the meantime, I think heavy sedation is in order. Once the restore’s been completed, we’ll retire this body for you and we’ll be all finished up.”

Retire this body? Kill me, is what it meant.

“No,” I said. I thrilled in my restraints: my voice was back under my control!

“Oh, really now.” The doc lost his bedside manner, let his exasperation slip through. “There’s nothing else for it. If you’d come to me when it all started, well, we might’ve had other options. You’ve got no one to blame but yourself.”

“No,” I repeated. “Not now. I won’t sign.”

Dan put his hand on mine. I tried to jerk out from under it, but the restraints and his grip held me fast. “You’ve got to do it, Julius. It’s for the best,” he said.

“I’m not going to let you kill me,” I said, through clenched teeth. His fingertips were callused, worked rough with exertion well beyond the normal call of duty.

“No one’s killing you, son,” the doctor said. Son, son, son. Who knew how old he was? He could be 18 for all I knew. “It’s just the opposite: we’re saving you. If you continue like this, it will only get worse. The seizures, mental breakdown, the whole melon going soft. You don’t want that.”

I thought of Zed’s spectacular transformation into a crazy person. No, I sure don’t. “I don’t care about the interface. Chop it out. I can’t do it now.” I swallowed. “Later. After the rehab. Eight more weeks.”

The irony! Once the doc knew I was serious, he sent Dan out of the room and rolled his eyes up while he placed a call. I saw his gorge work as he subvocalized. He left me bound to the table, to wait.

No clocks in the infirmary, and no internal clock, and it may have been ten minutes or five hours. I was catheterized, but I didn’t know it until urgent necessity made the discovery for me.

When the doc came back, he held a small device that I instantly recognized: a HERF gun.

Oh, it wasn’t the same model I’d used on the Hall of Presidents. This one was smaller, and better made, with the precise engineering of a surgical tool. The doc raised his eyebrows at me. “You know what this is,” he said, flatly. A dim corner of my mind gibbered, he knows, he knows, the Hall of Presidents. But he didn’t know. That episode was locked in my mind, invulnerable to backup.

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